The Gospel of Mark – Part 5

The magnitude of need, vv. 29-34

The ceaseless energy of the perfect Servant is seen, for as soon as He has come out of the synagogue the next needy case is brought before Him.

The specific need, vv. 29-31

It is Mark that records that the house into which the Saviour entered belonged to Simon and that his brother Andrew lived with him. This is our first introduction to a home that was to become a place for the Lord to stay when He was in this area of the country. It is called ‘the house’ and was clearly seen as the place that the Lord met with His disciples and discussed matters with them.1 It might not be named as the same house, but there is sufficient evidence to support the fact that it was indeed Simon’s home.

It is Mark too that tells us of the presence of James and John. As the second of the Saviour’s miracles recorded by Mark is about to be performed, Mark tells us of those that witnessed it and can verify its certainty. These events were to be clearly established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

The person in need was Simon’s mother-in-law. The nature and severity of the condition are clearly reported by all gospel writers. Luke speaks of a great fever and Mark’s words suggest a burning fever that held her in its grip and that had done so for some time. She was now prostrate, her energy gone and her condition seemingly worsening.

In the Saviour’s treatment we see:

  • His compassion: ‘he came and took her by the hand’, v. 31. The touch was a symbol of the Saviour’s care, His interest, and a prerequisite of her healing, for in the lifting up there was the impartation of the energy that had been missing. It also demonstrated the Lord’s interest in women as well as the demoniac man in the synagogue.
  • The cure: ‘immediately the fever left her’, v. 31. Although some suggest that the word immediately is not in the text yet the instantaneous nature of the cure is clear from the events that follow. This was no gradual improvement with a period of convalescence that would have accompanied any cure by medicine.
  • The confirmation: ‘she ministered unto them’, v. 31. As if to confirm the completeness of the cure, she got up and became involved in ministering to the needs of the Lord and His disciples. Here is testimony to the power of the Saviour and the gratitude of the woman. As Hiebert comments, ‘There was no lingering weakness of lassitude, such as accompanies a normal convalescence’.2

The scope of need, vv. 32-34

There is in this procession from the city to the door of Peter’s home a sad picture of the need that existed in this part of the country. H. V. Morton tells us of the existence of so-called healing springs in the nearby city of Tiberius.3 What a contrast with the One who brings healing and deliverance which no other person or material could do.

  • The scene – ‘when the sun did set’, v. 32. As the Sabbath ended with the setting of the sun then the people were free to carry their loved ones to meet the Saviour. It is clear that they were keen to be seen to obey the Law and not to contravene the Sabbath day’s prohibitions.
  • The size of problem – ‘all that were diseased and them that were possessed with demons’, v. 32. There were the two types of problem mentioned – physical and mental problems. Within the physical problems there was the expected variety of afflictions and ailments – ‘divers diseases’, v. 34.
  • The summary of the problem – ‘all the city was gathered together’, v. 33. All were affected in some way. They were either sick physically or mentally or had someone within their family afflicted in this way. But there is also the added aspect of witnesses, as the mass of people could testify to what they would see. Whilst testimony could be borne by those present, the Lord silenced the demons. Cole comments, ‘All such testimony of demons is non-voluntary, an unwilling recognition of an empirical fact, and thus corresponds to no moral or spiritual transforming discovery’.4
  • The sufficiency of the Saviour – ‘He healed many … and cast out many devils’, v. 34. It is clear from other Gospel writers that Mark’s use of the word ‘many’ reflects his appreciation of the numbers – too many to count – whereas the other Gospels indicate that the Lord healed them all. He was sufficient to the task, however varied and however great. It is Luke that tells us that the Saviour had time in ministering to the need, for His touch was evident in His dealings with the needy.

The morning in prayer, vv. 35-39

Looking at the verses that precede this section and the extent of the activity of the Servant, we might wonder that He should desire to spend such a time in prayer. We would look to recharge the physical with prolonged rest and sleep whereas the Saviour sought the fellowship of heaven.

The solitude, v. 35

Luke tells us that the Saviour went into the desert but Mark, alone, tells us it was ‘a solitary place’, v. 35. Luke may well emphasize the inhospitable nature of the scene, but Mark would have us realize the importance of solitude in prayer. He was away from the distraction of a busy scene and able, over the period of the early hours of the morning, to take time in prayer. It was most probably the third watch of the night, still dark, when the Saviour left the house to seek a place for prayer.

This is in keeping with the Lord’s own words to His own. In the Sermon on the Mount, He bid His disciples to seek the place of solitude in prayer, ‘thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret’, Matt. 6. 6. Mark shows us that the Lord is wholly consistent in His own practices and that which He bids others to do.

The supplication, v. 35

We might highlight a number of things in relation to the prayer life of the Saviour as it is recorded here.

  • The period of prayer – ‘and there prayed’, v. 35. The imperfect tense of the verb indicates not just a single prayer but a period of continuous prayer. From the time indication, it may well be that the Saviour spent up to three hours in prayer at such an early hour of the morning.
  • The purpose of prayer – ‘and there prayed’, v. 35. The word indicates communion. The purpose of the time in prayer would seem to be a desire to bring spiritual refreshment through fellowship and personal communion with the Father. In relation to this prayer, Hiebert comments, ‘The verb does not denote intercession for others, but rather the conscious outgoing of the soul toward God in desire for Him. After a busy day of service Jesus felt the need for inner refreshment through renewed fellowship with the Father’.5

The Saviour had been in conflict with spiritual forces opposed to His purpose. He had been busy in the service of God. How important, then, that He should spend time in prayer fellowship with the Father and prepare Himself, once more, for the demands of service. The practical application of this is not lost upon Barnhouse, ‘If Jesus in His great power and oneness with God could feel the urgent necessity of communion with the Father, how much more you and I need to go to the Father for the strength that fills our weakness and the knowledge that fills our ignorance’.6

The search, vv. 36, 37

Finding the Saviour was not present in the house, Simon, and others with him, start a search. There was a desire to find the one who had brought such healing and deliverance that they had witnessed for themselves. The blessing that the Saviour had brought distinguished Him as a teacher but, more importantly for the crowds, met their physical needs as none other could. It was these factors that added zeal to their search.

Simon, and perhaps the other disciples, had caught the mood of the crowd. They said to the Saviour, ‘All men seek for thee’, v. 37. The words suggest that, for the disciples, this must dictate the movements of the Saviour. He must move to meet the desires of the crowd. Capernaum must be satisfied! He must capitalize on such popularity.

The service, vv. 38, 39

But the Lord is not guided by popularity or the clamour of the crowd. His purpose is not to fulfil the will of the people but the will of God. Hence, the Lord says, ‘Let us go into the next towns’, v. 38. It is not that Capernaum did not have need but that the need of the other towns was greater. Capernaum should not seek to monopolize the Saviour’s time at the expense of others who were equally deserving.

The Lord also emphasizes the true purpose of His service, ‘that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth’, v. 38. He had not come to heal, although He did that. He had come to preach and this must be the focus of His activity. The miracles that He performed were to authenticate the message rather than to replace it. Thus, what the Saviour said, He did, ‘And He preached in their synagogues’, v. 39. The scope of that preaching? ‘Throughout all Galilee’.

Endnotes

1

See 2. 1; 9. 33; and 10. 10, for other references to the house.

2

Hiebert, op. cit., pg. 54.

3

Wuest, op. cit., pg. 37.

4

Cole, op. cit., pg. 62.

5

Hiebert, op. cit., pg. 56.

6

D. G. Barnhouse, Mark: The Servant Gospel, Victor Books, 1988, pg. 32.

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